6 tips for a safer summer on (and near) the water

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This weekend’s tragic drowning death of a 13-year-old suburban girl and her 12-year-old brother in the Kankakee River is a heartbreaking reminder that we have entered the season for water-related deaths and accidents.

With more people and children around rivers, pools, lakes and beaches during the next few months, WGN News spoke with Amy Hill, associate director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Lurie Children’s Hospital, for tips and advice on making it a safer summer on the water.


  1. The most important thing, Hill says, is to have supervision.  “Supervise your kids,” she says.  With larger groups at backyard parties or family gatherings, it can be taken for granted that someone is watching children at all times.  “Adults can just as easily get distracted,” Hill says.  “Especially with technology.”  If your group is near water, make it clear whose job it is to watch the kids.
  2.  Also, make sure your child is prepared and has taken swimming lessons.  “Age 4 is a good age to begin swimming lessons, though children can be even younger.”  Additionally, “You’re never too old for swimming lessons either,” she says.  If your child is 8 years old, 12 years old, even a teenager, and hasn’t taken any lessons, they still can and it can still help.
  3. “A child can drown in any amount of water, “ Hills says.  “From a toddler pool to even large buckets of water, you may have in your yard.”  Be sure to empty out any collection of water you may have or store in a place children cannot access.


But even with the best prevention, accidents still happen.  So what do you do if you see someone in trouble in the water?

  1.  Know what you’re looking for.  It can be difficult to recognize when someone is drowning in water, Hill says.  “Drowning is silent,” she says. “It’s not very often that the victim is making a lot of noise or calling for help because they are choking on the water. It’s not like it is on TV.”

Hill points to this video which shows how fast and how quite a real-life drowning can be.

Post-Rescue Concerns

Once a child is removed from the water, the danger isn’t necessarily over.

  1. Dry Drowning can occur immediately following a rescue, Hill says.   “If a child is coughing, there could be water in their airway and the airway is spasming.”  Call a doctor immediately if you see this in a child.
  2. Secondary Drowning is very rare, Hill says, but can occur up to 24 hours after a child is rescued from the water.  “Secondary Drowning happens when water gets into the child’s lungs after they have gone completely under and were in need of rescue,” she says.  Hill says to look for a dry cough, vomiting, confusion or sleepiness.

For more information and safety tips, log on to Lurie Children’s Hospital’s website.

Lurie Children’s injury prevention initiatives are supported by The Kohl’s Cares®, which donates money to more than 160 hospitals nationwide to promote children’s health initiatives.